"How lovely to discover a book on the craft of writing that is also fun to read . . . Alison asserts that the best stories follow patterns in nature, and by defining these new styles she offers writers the freedom to explore but with enough guidance to thrive." ―Maris Kreizman, Vulture
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2019 | A Poets & Writers Best Books for Writers
As Jane Alison writes in the introduction to her insightful and appealing book about the craft of writing: “For centuries there’s been one path through fiction we’re most likely to travel― one we’re actually told to follow―and that’s the dramatic arc: a situation arises, grows tense, reaches a peak, subsides . . . But something that swells and tautens until climax, then collapses? Bit masculosexual, no? So many other patterns run through nature, tracing other deep motions in life. Why not draw on them, too?"
W. G. Sebald’s Emigrants was the first novel to show Alison how forward momentum can be created by way of pattern, rather than the traditional arc--or, in nature, wave. Other writers of nonlinear prose considered in her “museum of specimens” include Nicholson Baker, Anne Carson, Marguerite Duras, Gabriel García Márquez, Jamaica Kincaid, Clarice Lispector, Susan Minot, David Mitchell, Caryl Phillips, and Mary Robison.
Meander, Spiral, Explode is a singular and brilliant elucidation of literary strategies that also brings high spirits and wit to its original conclusions. It is a liberating manifesto that says, Let’s leave the outdated modes behind and, in thinking of new modes, bring feeling back to experimentation. It will appeal to serious readers and writers alike.
For seasoned writers
What we are gifted with her is the authors earnest and educated dissection of some of literature’s finest works. You won’t find discussions of grammar or voice, plotting or the virtues of eschewing adverbs.
Here instead is a master class in breaking free from the traditional (Western, masculine) way of telling a story. Here is a departure from thinking of stories within the confines of one narrow box—or arc.
Using examples from literature, the author exposes us to patterns found in nature: the wave, the fractal, the spiral. This is done through erudite and engaging discourse about each segment of text. I finished this book knowing I would keep it close as I attempt to tell my own stories in new ways.